Hope Solo is a soccer player for the Seattle women’s soccer team. She has won two Olympic gold medals and one World Cup. She played in this past Rio Olympics for the U.S. soccer team and after they lost, she called the other team “a bunch of cowards” because of some of their defensive tactics.
She was banned for six months because of these comments and has just announced that she will not be returning to play for her national team anymore. They terminated her contract.
The U.S. Soccer President said it was because Solo’s comments were “unacceptable, and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our national team players.” More interestingly, he said: “Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.”
Here’s the thing: at the very same Olympics, the US basketball team went to a brothel. They say it was an “accident.” I’m told that it is a standard practice for professional athletes to visit prostitutes. I understand that prostitution is a complicated issue and differs from country to country. But it still makes me feel kind of icky.
The fastest man in the world, highly decorated Usain Bolt, was photographed after his wins drinking and partying it up. A Brazilian woman posted selfies of them from their night together in Rio; then, back in London, Bolt was seen more than once taking several women – up to 10 at a time – back to his hotel room; they were seen leaving his room throughout the night. It was caught on video. Also kind of icky. (He has a girlfriend of two years who was not with him in Rio who has not spoken publicly about this but has “liked” criticisms of him on social media.)
Ryan Lochte, the 12-time Olympic medalist who is considered to be the second best swimmer in the world (behind Michael Phelps), lied to police and said he had been mugged at gunpoint in Rio; the truth was he got drunk and trashed a bathroom with a bunch of other athletes.
There have been no suspensions for these men and not much more than some annoyance and dismay in gossip media. There has been no public outcry, save for a few articles about the double standards for female athletes like this one from The Guardian.
Sure, endorsements may be lost, but Lochte has already started filming the next season of “Dancing With the Stars” and everyone seems to accept that visiting brothels, drinking and dancing on top of bars with women who you take back to your room by the handful is just “boys being boys”…
Do the athletes in brothels represent the “ideals of…respect”? Are these behaviors acceptable because they are examples of athletes honoring the principles of the Olympics? What do I tell my sons about the athletes of the Olympics? That you should train your whole life and treat your body like a temple except when it comes to winning at which time you consume massive amounts of alcohol and have sex with as many women as possible? Is that respectful of one’s body as an athlete and as a man?
Gabby Douglas was in my news feed for days and days about her supposed “bad attitude” at the Olympics. And she didn’t put her hand over her heart for the national anthem and that caused so much drama. But when shotput medalists winners Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovac didn’t put their hands over their hearts during the medal ceremony anthem, no one said they had a bad attitude. And when male athletes are behaving like unsupervised teenagers living out some nihilistic fantasy of drinking, destroying property and/or having indiscriminate sex, not only is that not a problem, but it can apparently get you a role on a reality show.
I will tell my sons that Hope Solo was a sore loser and that’s something she should work on. But my kids know that their mama is the sorest loser of them all and although I’m not proud of it, if I lost at the Olympics, I’d probably say something like Hope did, too, and I would hope I wouldn’t be suspended from a sport I had given my entire life to because of it, especially when the male athletes are behaving like they have been.
There’s a double standard here. And I guess I was naïve to think my kids could look up to these athletes. I’m glad the head of women’s U.S. Soccer is helping maintain dignity and respect at the Olympics.
I’m also glad that the sarcasm I just dished out isn’t going to get me suspended from my career.